Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: The Church (12/06/07)
TITLE: Out of Time
By Peter Stone
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I ceased describing my church’s impressive array of programs and looked about in confusion, only to cry out in shock when a tall man dressed entirely in white stepped out from behind my visitor.
“Who…who are you?” I stammered.
“My name is Gabriel, Pastor David.”
“The Gabriel?” I asked. Was this a vision?
“The one and only,” he replied.
“But why are you here? What’s going on? Why has everyone frozen?”
“I have pulled you out of the time stream for the moment,” Gabriel explained patiently, “in order to show you a horrid malady that is creeping through the Church worldwide – including this one that you pastor.” He stopped to study my face with disturbing intensity. “Would you like to know what it is?”
“Ah…okay,” I stammered.
“Then come with me!”
I screamed in terror as machine gun bullets tore up the ground about my feet. A mortar shell exploded nearby and shrapnel tore past my face. I wanted to throw myself down in fear, but seeing Gabriel standing rock solid beside me gave me pause.
I realised that American Marines were all about me, running with controlled haste from soldiers of the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army, who were pouring unchecked over the crest of a nearby hill. The machine gun opened fire again and several Marines collapsed to the ground, moaning in pain.
“Third Squad, retrieve those wounded and escort them to the rear!” shouted the Second Lieutenant.
“But sir!” complained the squad’s Sergeant, “there are too many of them - we won’t make it!”
“First Squad, suppress that enemy machine gun!” snapped the Second Lieutenant, “Sergeant – save those men! We leave no one behind, soldier!”
The Sergeant led his squad into the fire zone. They lifted up the wounded and quickly escorted them to the rear.
The roar of weapons was so loud that Gabriel had to shout in my ear. “This body of soldiers is the U.S. 1st Marine Division in Korea, 1950. Although retreating, it protects its wounded at all costs.”
The scene changed and I found myself standing in shin deep snow. I shivered uncontrollably as I was dressed for summer. My breath caught in my throat when I saw a column of thousands of inadequately dressed French soldiers, clinging to muskets with frost bitten fingers, trudging dejectedly past me.
As I watched, a soldier with his arm in a sling fell to the snow beside the road. “Help me!” he implored, but his fellows paid him no heed.
“Please, someone, help me!” said another soldier with a bandaged head as he also collapsed upon the snow. In response, two of his comrades stripped off his jacket and trousers in order to make themselves warmer, and then abandoned him to freeze to death.
“As you can see, Pastor, this disheartened body of soldiers - what is left of Napoleon’s Grande Armee that invaded Russian in 1812 – no longer tends to its wounded.”
Gabriel leaned closer. “Would you like to see how another body of soldiers, the body of Christ, the Church, treats its wounded?”
“Um, ah, yes?” I croaked.
I found myself standing in a familiar house, where a downcast elderly couple sat eating their breakfast.
“Do you recognise this couple?” the angel asked.
“Yes, they’re Mr. and Mrs. Gable. They used to come to my church, but I haven’t seen them for awhile.”
“They left because the music is too loud. No apologies were made, no one has checked on them since they left; no attempt has been made to soften the music. Now they languish at home alone. Consequently, your church now lacks their wisdom,” spelt out Gabriel.
Now I was standing in a bedroom, next to a young man who lay on his bed, rocking from side to side.
“Do you recognise him?” asked Gabriel.
“Ah, yes, Steve Melton. He graduated from my Bible College, but I have not seen him lately.”
“He worked so hard in the church that he burnt himself out. For several weeks now he has been like this. But no one checks on him, no one comes to comfort and sit beside him.” Gabriel turned suddenly to appraise me intently. “Pastor David, you Christians, the Church, are the body of Christ. Why do you leave your wounded to die?”
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